September 27, 2017
Maritime Southeast Asia, the area circumscribed by the Malaysian peninsula, the Indonesian archipelago and the Philippines, is vital to US strategic concerns for two primary reasons. First, this region includes the South China Sea where American and Chinese ambitions may be heading toward direct conflict as China continues to press forward with its agenda of extending its reach. Second, the region is of crucial importance for world shipping routes that are vulnerable to potential disruption due to the geography of the narrow passages at the Sunda Strait (between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra) and the Strait of Malacca (between Sumatra and the Malaysian peninsula). It is important that these ocean ways remain open to unencumbered passage and free trade, subject to the rule of law, and it is crucial that the US, as guarantor of the free seas, retain its capacity to project its power in the region and avoid being shut out by a competing power.